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At La Guardia, a Smiling Helper Materializes, Digitally

Marie is an avatar. She provides information about La Guardia Airport to travelers. Officials say she is meant to help workers, not replace them.

Written by:

Nate Schweber

The New York Times


La Guardia Airport’s newest employee, a young woman named Marie, made quite an impression during her first day on the job Wednesday. Airport managers smiled as they watched the blue-eyed, 6-foot-tall blonde with apple-red cheeks stand in front of new arrivals and pleasantly explain where they could find the baggage claim and the taxi stands. Her bosses did not even mind when she twiddled her thumbs and rolled her eyes when no one was around.

But Tom Bosco, the airport’s general manager, conceded that for all her attributes, Marie was a little two-dimensional.

“She never complains, she’s pretty, she’s got a good personality,” he said. “She’s a little bit shallow though.”

Marie is an avatar, a life-size image of a woman digitally broadcast from a projector onto an inch-thick glass screen coated with a special film, said Luis Vega, 39, the vice president of Parabit Systems, the company that built Marie. The device uses motion sensors to prompt Marie’s 90-second script whenever anyone comes within 30 feet of her.


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